Growing up, Shannon Daugherty hated wrestling. She may not have hit the mat herself, but she remembers being dragged to her brothers’ events and competitions every weekend.
“I hated giving up my Saturdays,” she said. “With this sport it was not love at first sight.”
Now as an employee of USA Wrestling and the U.S. Olympic Committee, her life revolves around the sport. The community is what she really loves about her job, and that job has taken her far away from Titusville in the process.
Wrestling has taken Daugherty all across the country and even around the world. As the National Teams Coordinator and Regional Training Center Coordinator for USA Wrestling, she goes with athletes when they compete, doing just about anything they need. She recently just returned from Oslo, Norway, where the team competed in the 2021 World Championships.
“I’m there to make sure things go smooth and that the athletes just focus on competing,” she said.
Her duties range from making sure the athletes are following COVID rules and regulations, including administering daily COVID tests, and laundry and grocery shopping.
“The athletes are very specific with what they want to fuel their bodies,” said Daugherty.
Daugherty hasn’t always loved wrestling and getting to this point has been a journey in its own right for her.
It all started in seventh grade. Daugherty for years had been going to different wrestling competitions, tournaments and meets with her brothers. One of the coaches noticed her regular attendance and asked if she wanted to keep track of stats.
“I was there anyway,” she said, so she agreed. It was during these years taking stats that she was first introduced with the community around wrestling and she really started to enjoy going to meets that she had dreaded attending for years.
Her own sports got in the way during high school, so she took some time off from the sport. It was in college that she really started to take her participation to the next level.
Daugherty, much like what happened in seventh grade, was approached by the Wrestling Affiliate Club. After a year with the club, she was hired on as a manager for the wrestling team.
It was at the Rec Hall with Penn State Wrestling when Daugherty really got to see the magic behind the sport. She remembers the dual-championships where a depleted Penn State lineup took on rivals Ohio State. Going into the competition, no one thought that Penn State had a chance.
When the Nittany Lions pulled off the upset, Daugherty said she has never seen anything like Rec Hall that night. “Rec Hall was hysterical. There is no environment like it,” she said. “The atmosphere, it was crazy.”
After graduating, Daugherty applied for the job with USA Wrestling, and moved to Colorado for the job. She traded college fans for international fans, and college athletes for olympians.
On her last trip to Norway, the difference between the college game and how far she had come was obvious. Instead of Penn State fans in Rec Hall, Daugherty said that the craziest fans in Oslo were Iranians cheering for their athletes.
“They had cowbells, whistles, and were so loud,” she said. These events are a melting pot of different countries and cultures, and Daugherty was glad to be there to soak it all in. “Getting out to experience another country is great,” she said.
When USA Wrestling travels, they bring a lot of people with them. Coaches, doctors, trainers, chiropractors — the list goes on. The constant work of helping the team was tiring, but all worth it, the Americans took second place as a team, and had thee gold medalists, a silver medalist and four bronze medalists.
Seeing her team do so well was a big pay off for Daugherty, but also for the athletes, who she has come to know and is invested in.
“I have really made great relationships with the athletes and coaches,” she said. “I really became invested in their stories. There is nothing like the thrill of seeing your athletes do well.”
Daugherty would love to continue working with wrestling. She said looking back, that her younger self might not be thrilled about her career, but she has really grown to love the sport and the relationships that it has fostered.
“It is the community that pulled me in,” she said. That pull has taken her to some incredible places.
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.